Posted by Edelweiss Patterns on October 27, 2011
1950s Dresses for Fall and Winter
- In 1953, pencil slim skirts and checked fabrics were the styles of choice for fall fashions.
~ Here are some lovely 1950s Fall Fashion Plates I’d like to share from my collection…
As the air turns colder and the days get shorter, everyone’s thoughts turn toward staying warm in the upcoming season. But for women, staying warm and staying fashionable can sometimes be tricky to accomplish at the same time! Since I always like to wear dressy outfits when the need arises, I also continue to thin nylons and open-toed high heels throughout the winter months for feet and legs that feel like icicles. But back in the 1950s, ladies were at least as conscientious as we are today about looking “smart” no matter the weather, and probably much much more so!
In this fall fashion article (taken from a 1953 magazine in my collection) the editor Kathryn Day discusses popular fashions for the cold weather months, along with suggested high heels to coordinate with these outfits. And look at the prices of those shoes! The description reads, “Under $12″, which must have meant that clothing and shoes cost an awful lot more than they do today (now you can buy a pair of high heels for $12 at the outlet mall!). Of course back then everything was made in America, which could have had something to do with the expensive price and the difference in the economy…
- Three lovely 1950s dresses with fitted bodices and tight belts.
In the dress advertisements above we see a few gorgeous 1950s styles suitable for parties or dressier occasions. The two black dresses have dainty embellished trimming towards the neckline, one of them with pearls and bugle beads. Is it my imagination or did they try to make the red-haired lady resemble Lucille Ball? “I Love Lucy” was in it’s heyday at the time, and in fact this very same magazine issue had a full two-page story about Lucille & Desi Arnaz along with wonderful color photographs. Something about the way the lady’s lipstick and eyebrows are done remind me of “Lucy” very strongly, and the sidewise glance up at the top is quite a lot like those ridiculous wide-eyed looks Lucille was famous for.
Falling leaves are an appropriate addition to these charming dresses just perfect for autumn.
And finally, here are a couple of darling dresses made from checked gabardine. I love the dress up at the top of the page, with the almost Victorian bodice and fitted half-belt that only travels from side seam to side seam around the back. And the lower photograph shows a classy shirtwaist dress with patch pockets and a sturdy belt, a fashion accessory which a 1950s dress was almost never without.
Stay tuned for more 1950s fashion plates in the future!
Posted by Edelweiss Patterns on October 21, 2011
A Blue Silk 1950s Dress – Butterick Retro 5556 Pattern Review
After sewing three summery 1950s dresses from Butterick 4790, I knew I would be very sad to be without a vintage 50s style dress for winter! So when I saw Butterick 5556 (an updated version of an original 1950s pattern), it instantly struck me as the perfect 1950s dress for cold weather with its 3/4 length sleeves and mid-calf length skirt. And only a few weeks after I found the pattern on sale, a dear friend of mine gave me her mother’s collection of fabrics, which included a six yard piece of 54″ wide blue silk dupioni! My initial thought was to make a formal gown with the fabric, but since 50s dresses can be worn everyday and formalwear cannot, I chose to turn this gorgeous silk fabric into Butterick 5556.
Butterick 5556 Pattern Review
Unlike most sewer’s reviews of Butterick 4790, Butterick 5556 is perfectly designed for the modern figure, and requires few if any adjustments to achieve a perfect fit. This retro pattern has kimono sleeves, with the sleeves being an extension of the main bodice itself. Obviously that creates a little bit of wrinkling or bunching in the shoulder and upper bodice area, but when you watch the “I Love Lucy” costumes from that decade, many of Lucille Ball’s dresses were cut the same way. And of course no one minds having one less step of sewing construction!
Fitting the Dress
I did cut the bodice one size smaller than my measurements since I could see from their model garment that the bodice had too much room in it to look authentic for the early 1950s. When sewing the sleeves, I cut them a couple inches shorter than the pattern calls for and added a double ruffle of silk dupioni at the sleeve hem.
And after initially trying on the dress for fitting the bodice, I found that it definitely needed more room to make it over my shoulders. (This could have been lessened had I cut out the bodice larger, but I still think it would have been a little tight.) So instead of sewing a seam down the center front of the bodice as the patterns direct, I just bound the raw edges, added facings, and sewed some stunning blue and silver buttons down the front. This way I have the front closure plus the required side zipper closure, making it a snap to get in to without feeling like you’re going to rip the seams out!
A Classy 1950s Party Dress Style
As for the pattern style itself, I love it! Both the winged collar version and the mandarin collar version are so very classy, but I chose the mandarin collar option because it reminded me of Catherine Wood’s lovely pink dress from the film A Man Called Peter. Butterick 5556 has eight skirt gores, two of which are straight in the front, with the remaining six gathered around the sides and back. There are two vertical darts in the front and two in the back, though for proper fitting I had to add two horizontal darts from the center front outward. I’m sure this wouldn’t necessarily be the case with everyone, but for some reason it wouldn’t lay flat without the additional darts.
Besides adding the buttons and sleeve frills, the only other minor changes I made to this pattern were:
1. Omitting the belt (tiny belts make people look larger than they are)
2. Adding a rhinestone and pearl broach to close the very top of the bodice front
When at last my dress was done, it was so exciting to put it on with the big 1950s crinoline underneath! I used the same crinoline petticoat I had sewn for the 1950s dress sew-along, but I distributed the gathers evenly around the elastic since this dress doesn’t have the wraparound aspect of Butterick 4790. (Of course if you were to wear this dress without the crinoline, it would not at all have the same effect, and would actually be a waste of all those yards of skirt material if the dress just hung limply around your knees instead of being held out with crinoline netting.)
I just love dress styles that have high collars sloping into v-necklines, and if you look at the dress from waist up, it could almost pass for a Victorian style! And while I don’t usually wear a lot of dark blue, I think it is just stunning for this elegant 1950s dress – so very classy and wintry.
A 1950s Hat, Princess Catherine Style
And finally, I knew this dress would not be complete without a hat! I am certainly no milliner, but with some scraps of buckram, satin and silk dupioni, I arrived at a fascinator style hat which at least resembles something from the Royal Wedding, if not from the 1950s. Inside the smallest satin rosette I stitched a silver and blue button that matches the buttons down the front of the dress.
So now I have a 1950s party dress which can easily be worn for the next few fall and winter months, and I’m sure I will have to use this pattern again to make a Christmas dress!
Posted by Edelweiss Patterns on October 14, 2011
Liesl’s Curtain Dress – The Sound of Music Playclothes Costumes
“I made them, from the drapes that used to hang in my bedroom!” Maria told Captain von Trapp about those green and white damask playclothes that his children had been roaming about Salzburg wearing. No one would probably think of making a reproduction of Liesl’s curtain dress unless they were a die-hard Sound of Music fan such as myself, but since I do hope to eventually recreate and sew all the Sound of Music film costumes, I decided that Liesl’s dress from the “Do-Re-Mi” scene was the next one on my list!
I had never thought much of sewing Liesl’s curtain dress until I spotted this wonderful sparkly damask from Michael Miller Fabrics. I instantly knew that this would be the perfect Sound of Music curtain fabric, and proceeded to snatch up a couple of yards of the material.
"Do you mean to tell me that my children have been roaming about Salzburg dressed up in nothing but some old drapes?!"
The Sound of Music Film Costume ~ In the film version, Liesl von Trapp’s dress is probably one of the cutest of all the children’s drapery playclothes.
All Sound of Music stills are copyright by Twentieth Century Fox, 1965.
It has a modest round neckline, fitted bodice, puffy white sleeves, and a below-knee skirt that is straight in the front and gathered in the back.
Liesl’s curtain dress has a nipped-in waist, thanks to self-fabric ties sewn into the dart seams at the bodice front.
These ties end in a bow in the back, though you rarely get a good shot of the back of the dress due to the moving nature of the scenes it occurs in.
With the flattering bodice and cute puffy sleeves, I love wearing this new Sound of Music costume!
I realized after the photo shoot that these two pictures have very similar poses!
“Liesl’s Curtain Dress” is somewhere between a dirndl style and a sundress, and I think the sparkles in the fabric I used make the dress much cuter, and not so “drapery” looking. The only thing I would probably change with this dress is adding more width to the skirt.
The original Sound of Music film costume is on display at the Planet Hollywood Restaurant, and is one of only four known Sound of Music costumes that can actually be viewed by the public. In this photo you will also see Gretl’s party dress and Marta’s party dress, both of which are darling little girls’ dresses. All three of these film costumes have softened up over the years, and don’t have the same cripsness that they did in 1964. They are still in excellent condition though, and I am so grateful that we can get a glimpse of them behind glass! To view the other Sound of Music film costume which is currently on display, click here.
So while I may not release the pattern for this Sound of Music dress in the immediate future, I will certainly keep it on my list of patterns to make, as I have had requests for Sound of Music curtain costume patterns. Neverminding what the Captain thought of Maria’s fashion design abilities, I think this is a darling style with lots of vintage flair, and I would wear it even if it was sewn from “drapes that used to hang in my bedroom”.